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Maple Leafs 5, Hurricanes 2

Canes lose fifth straight and have one win in last nine starts, (1-4-4).

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

The Carolina Hurricanes had a season high 43 shots on goal but that wasn't enough as key mistakes led to a 5-2 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night at the ACC.

Cam Ward made a return to net but had a rough outing as the first goal he allowed bounced in the net at a bad angle, off of his leg.  Ward ended up making 22 saves on 26 shots on the night.

The Hurricanes dominated much of the opening period and did not allow a shot on goal by the Leafs until 12 minutes in.  But Phil Kessel beat Ward on that strange goal which gave the home team a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.

Nathan Gerbe tied things up early in the second period off of a Alexander Semin pass, but Kessel would score again midway through the period to put the Leafs back up when he sent the puck toward the net.  Ron Hainsey actually tipped this one in, as he was trying to beat James van Riemsdyk to the crease.

The home team jumped up, 3-1 just 1:16 later as the Canes failed to clear the puck out of their zone.  Nikolai Kulemin picked up the loose change and beat Ward on the short side with an open blast from just beyond the slot area.

Carolina scored a powerplay goal during a 4-on-3 opportunity later in the period when Justin Faulk's shot got past Jonathan Bernier to make the score 3-2 and that helped to give the visitors some hope.

The Canes killed a Toronto powerplay chance to start the third, but once again failed to clear the puck a bit later at even strength and it came back to haunt them.  At 4:58 into the period, the puck came out to Paul Ranger at the blueline and the defenseman beat Ward on a long shot to virtually put the game away.

The Canes outshot the Leafs 15-7 in the third, but could not beat Bernier again.  Dion Phaneuf closed things out with an empty netter.

Next up will be the Canadiens on New Year's Eve at the PNC.

Game Notes:

  • Once again, mistakes cost the team.  Failure to get the puck out of their zone, Bernier was better than Ward, and the big money players failed to produce points, were key factors that led to the loss.  Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, and Tuomo Ruutu were a combined (-12) in this one.
  • The Leafs picked up where the Blue Jackets left off the other night and were physically hammering the Hurricanes, while the Canes seemed to have no answer.
  • Carolina only won 40% of the game's faceoffs.
  • Manny Malhotra had a team high six shots on goal while Zach Boychuk and Skinner had five each as they outshot the Leafs 43-27.
  • In the post game interview, Kirk Muller said that he felt his team is playing well, but obviously, something is not right. Canes